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Published: Sunday, 11/20/2005

NAACP vote hearing details new flaws

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
AND JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Jill Kelly, far right, director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, listens to poll worker Shirley Crenshaw discuss problems. Jill Kelly, far right, director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, listens to poll worker Shirley Crenshaw discuss problems.
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In the midst of three hours of testimony detailing confusion and frustration in Lucas County's Nov. 8 election, Eddie Small's story drew gasps from a panel of elected officials and NAACP leaders yesterday.

Mr. Small, who was a presiding judge in the Old West End, reported that at the end of election night the paper record was blank on the two busiest voting machines at the Girl Scouts of Maumee Valley.

The rovers who came to close his precinct told him they hoped the votes were stored on the memory cards or in the machines themselves, but did not appear as concerned as Mr. Small. He said he left with no confidence that the votes from those machines were counted.

Mike Badik, Lucas County Board of Elections deputy director, took notes, but did not speak during the NAACP-sponsored hearing in Warren A.M.E. Church on Collingwood Boulevard. Afterward, he said he had not heard of that problem until yesterday.

He hypothesized that the paper had been loaded in the machines upside down, which would have allowed the machine to appear to be working, but would not have produced a printed record. That, he said, disturbed him, but he would be far more disturbed if an investigation would reveal that voters' selections had not been stored on the memory cards.

That was one of dozens of investigations that poll workers, voters, elected officials, and NAACP leaders yesterday exhorted the elections board to undertake.

WilliAnn Moore, president of the Toledo NAACP, said she will file a public records request. "I have asked for everything other than the kitchen sink," she said.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) questioned whether the $132 million in federal money appropriated for Ohio elections was spent properly, given the problems in Lucas County, which did not report its results until the morning after the election.

Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak, left, and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur question elections spending. Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak, left, and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur question elections spending.
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"We simply have to have an audit of this money," she said. "These are truly significant questions. We need to follow the money."

Ohio Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) blamed state election officials for what she described as "a meltdown" in Lucas County, and called for formation of an ad hoc committee, much like the one that delved into recent problems at the Toledo Zoo.

State Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) said she was embarrassed to be from the last county in Ohio to report its election results. She said yesterday's meeting was not meant to point fingers, but to encourage everyone involved to develop a better system.

Among the many changes that must be addressed, she said, was a lack of voters' privacy. At Rogers High School where she distributed literature, she said poll workers could easily see voters' picks.

Elections Director Jill Kelly said investigations into the Nov. 8 election would begin as soon as the board certifies the vote.

"We don't want to see anyone disenfranchised," she said before leaving the hearing early, saying she had bronchitis.

Several of the roughly 25 poll workers and voters who testified said people will become too frustrated to vote if problems are not remedied quickly.

Sue Nichols said absentee ballots were mailed out so late that her daughter who was in college out of state received hers the day before the election and spent $14 to overnight it back to Toledo.

Many people spoke of names mysteriously missing from voter rolls. In one case, a presiding judge said, a whole street was missing.

If problems are not fixed, the elections board will have more trouble finding qualified people willing to work at the polls, many told the panel.

Diann Revels said she was kept at the polls and at a meeting the night before far later than she expected.

At a board-sponsored pancake breakfast held earlier yesterday, many of the same problems were discussed.

Poll workers didn't get manuals for the new voting machines until shortly before the election.

The system of roving workers to help close polls and take the votes downtown was time consuming.

Calls for an advisory council of veteran poll workers to review training materials drew applause.

Looking around the Lucas County Recreation Center, where more than 500 people ate breakfast and filled out surveys, Joseph Stader noted how many senior citizens worked at the polls. He worried that young people are not volunteering.

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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